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Patricia D. López Headshot

Texas Latinos and the Politics of Change

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Much of today's reporting on Texas public education has increasingly become a narrow overplay of what we already know. Rather than solely recycling stories about the somber trends of Latinos, a question that everyone should be publically engaged in is: How are leaders in the state of Texas going to respond to its demographic shift?

Yes, Texas is and has been experiencing tremendous demographic shifts, and historical and projected trends showing the disenfranchisement of Texas Latinos in public schools and elsewhere are clear. However, what needs to be clearly articulated to the public are the positions held by current and aspiring leaders, as they pertain to the educational opportunities that will be afforded to this growing majority, and what public policy solutions entail.

In Texas' current climate, where Latinos comprise over half of all public school students, how one addresses this young, low-income demographic is more an issue of politics than mere data. From a public policy perspective, Latinos should demand to know where their representatives stand.

Young Latinos coming of age in Texas should have a right to a high school diploma, a college degree, and a right to vote. Texas Latinos should have a right to learn their history, preserve their culture, and master multiple languages. As the demands for a college education increase alongside their rapid representation, investments in higher education, student financial aid, and college completion programs for Latinos should be top priorities.

There should be no apologies for differentiating and acknowledging those leaders who feel a responsibility to fairly fund public schools, end high-stakes testing, and hold an expectation that all students be given an opportunity to obtain a college education from those who exonerate themselves. This extends into tackling politically contentious issues, like the scarcity of Latinos as public school teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members.

If certain leaders are going to hold no remorse for dictating the daily functions of people in public universities by way of market-based policies, why not confront the scarcity of Latino tenured faculty, staff, and administrators in our public institutions of higher education?

These inequities prompt a legitimate question all leaders should be required to answer: Are Texas Latinos, young and experienced, viewed as viable leaders across every sector of the state?

Educational institutions are noted as primary vehicles utilized to confine the political strength of Latinos. The demographic shift in Texas, and nationally, is old news. There are a whole lot of us -- in and out of the public policy arena -- who are waiting for some real news. Confronting larger questions as they relate to how our public institutions -- and the people who occupy them -- are responding to changing demographics are vital for the future of Latinos, the future of Texas, and the future of this country.